To ensure a continuous high standard of police units, it is critical to recruit people who perform well in stressful situations. Today, this selection process includes performing a large series of tests, which still may not objectively reveal a person’s capacity to handle a life-threatening situation when subjected to high levels of stress. To obtain more systematic and objective data, 12 police officers were exposed to six scenarios with varying levels of threat while their heart rate and pupil size were monitored. The scenarios were filmed and six expert evaluators assessed the performance of the police officers according to seven predefined criteria. Four of the scenarios included addressing a moderate threat level task and the scenarios were executed in a rapid sequence. Two further scenarios included a familiar firearm drill performed during high and low threat situations. The results showed that there was a large agreement between the experts in how they judged the performance of the police officers (p < 0.001). Performance increased significantly over tasks in four of the seven evaluation criteria (p ≤ 0.037). There was also a significant effect of pupil size (p = 0.004), but not heart rate, when comparing the different sequential scenarios. Moreover, a high level of threat considerably impaired the motor performance of the police officers during the firearms drill (p = 0.002). Finally, the pupil seemed to systematically dilate more when a threat appeared immediately than with a delay in the scenarios (p = 0.007). We conclude that systematic and quantitative judgments from experts provide valuable and reliable information about the performance of participants in realistic and stressful policing scenarios. Furthermore, objective physiological measures of heart rate and pupil size may help to explain and understand why performance sometimes deteriorates.
- Psykologi (exklusive tillämpad psykologi)
- Miljömedicin och yrkesmedicin